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Eugenics found fertile ground across Scandinavia in the first half of the twentieth century. Among all the Nordic countries, Sweden was arguably where eugenics met with its greatest “success”. Here the physician and psychiatrist Herman Lundborg established and headed the world’s first State Institute for Race Biology in Uppsala. A driver for Lundberg's promotion of eugenics was his obsession with the threat of racial mixing between Sámi, Finns and Swedes in the north. This panel sets out to explore the history of race biology in Sweden, Lundborg's field work among the indigenous peoples and national minorities of Northern Sweden, how skull measurements impacted minorities, and how racial profiling became the darkest side of the burgeoning Scandinavian welfare states. The panel will broaden the scope to consider the wider legacy of eugenics across the Nordic region and how artists, documentarians, and even writers of famed Nordic Noir crime novels have dealt with the consequences and violence of race biology on individuals and minority groups today.

The panel discussion will include the screening of a part of Maja Hagerman and Claes Gabrielson's documentary film 'What Measures to Save a People? A film about Herman Lundborg' and a presentation of art works exploring the impact of eugenics on Sami and other indigenous populations in the north.








Confirmed panellists will include:

Maja Hagerman. The Price-winning Swedish writer, journalist and documentary filmmaker Maja Hagerman is the author of the first ever book written about Herman Lundborg, the physician and psychiatrist who headed the world’s first State Institute for Race Biology in Uppsala, Sweden, from 1922 to 1935. The book Käraste Herman. Rasbiologen Herman Lundborgs gåta (2015, Dear Herman: The Mystery of the Race Biologist Herman Lundborg) won the Swedish Academy Axel Hirsch Prize, has been translated into German and was accompanied by Hagerman and Gabrielson's documentary film 'What Measures to Save a People? A film about Herman Lundborg',


Curt Persson. The historian and Associate Senior Lecturer at Luleå University of Technology published the study Då var jag som en fånge: Statens övergrepp på tornedalingar och meänkielitalande under 1800- och 1900-talet [I felt like a prisoner: The abuse of Tornedalians and Meänkieli speakers by the Swedish state in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries] in 2018. The study brings new evidence of the extent to which the people of Tornedalen was exposed to race-biological inspections such as skull measurements by the Institute for Race Biology and that craniometry on children took place as late as 1951.

Katarina Pirak Sikku. Katarina was born in Jokkmokk, Sweden. She is a First Nations Sami woman. She graduated from Umeå Academy of Fine Arts in 2005. Her exhibition, Nammaláhpán, at the Bildmuseet comtemporary art museum in Umeå, was nominated for the Dagens Nyheters culture prize in 2015; the multimedia exhibition was the result of Pirak Sikku's ten-year study into the racial and biological nature of the Sami peoples. Her work has also been shown at Korundi House of Culture in Finland, Grafikens Hus in Sweden, Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín in Colombia and the Árran Lule Sami Centre in Norway.

Organisers: Professor Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen ( and Izabella Wodzka ( at Scandinavian Studies, University College London, in collaboration with the Institute of Advanced Studies and the Sarah Parker Redmond Centre for the Study of Racism and Racialisation at UCL.

The Legacy of Eugenics in Scandinavia: The impact of Swedish Race Biology on the Sami and Tornedalians

Thursday 27 May, 16:00 - 18:00 (UK time) via Zoom.


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